What would you think if you heard that a state’s animal mascot was the grizzly bear? Would you think it was in a heavily populated, industry laden state of warm climates and barren terrain? Or perhaps in a coastal state along the eastern seaboard known for its sudden surge of winter inhabitants when retired seniors escape the frozen cold of the north? Probably neither. A grizzly bear habitat brings to mind a heavily forested area with mountainous elevations and snow covered peaks, cold winters and enough room for them to roam, hunt and reproduce without the encroachment of human civilization upsetting their natural rhythms. How well do you think that Montana would fill this bill? If you answered a definite yes, you must know a little about this beautiful, remote, yet hospitable state. Montana is a state with locations in both the Great Plains region of the United States and also the Pacific Northwest region. It holds at least 77 different mountain ranges in its western half, all part of the great Rocky Mountains that run through that part of the state. It is easy to see how it got its name from the Spanish word Montana, which means mountain. Because of its majestic landscape, Montana is also called the “Treasure State” and the “Land of Shining Mountains”. Many people simply refer to it as “Big Sky Country” because of its vast wide open spaces, particularly in the eastern half of the state, where the sky does indeed seem to go on forever. Although this state is rated in the top five of the 50 United States in land measure, there are only 6 other states with lower populations. That makes a lot of land to go around to a very sparse number of people, comparatively. Due to its vast land area, Montana’s primary economy is one based on farming with mining and lumbering coming close behind. Another great boost to Montana’s economy is the amount of revenue produced by the huge number of people visiting the famous national parks which comprise a lot of its territory. These parks include at least five entrances to the world renowned Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, Little Big Horn National Monument, Lewis and Clark Caverns and the National Bison Range. In all Montana has a total of eight National Forests and over 20 National Wildlife Refuges. What a lot to see! Montana is also home to a vast number of rivers which not only afford some awesome fishing to natives and tourists alike, but also serve as a source of electricity to help provide power wherever needed. Some of these are the mighty Clark Fork River, the Missouri River, the Yellowstone River and the Blackfoot and Bitterroot Rivers. All of these larger sources of water as well as the many smaller rivers and streams are of major importance to Montana not only as a source of hydroelectricity, but also for farming as well. The largest natural fresh water lake west of Lake Michigan is located in Montana and is called Flathead Lake. This and other man made reservoirs are an essential part of the state’s recreational credits, too. As with all of the United States, Native Americans were the first inhabitants of Montana. These included such groups as the Crow, the Cheyenne and the Blackfeet. Some of the lesser known factions included the Assiniboine, the Gros Ventres, the Pend d’Oreille and the Kalispel people. Today there are many Native American reservations located within the borders of Montana. Some of these include the Blackfeet Indian Reservation located east of Glacier National Park and borders Canada to the north, the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation which is located about 100 miles east of the 1876 Battle of Little Big Horn site, and the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation also located in northern Montana about 40 miles south of the Canadian border. Montana was the location where the Native American’s staged their final stand to keep their land. This occurred near the present day town of Hardin and was a monumental event in history between the standoff of the United States government and the Native Americans. With the natural soaring topography of the western half of Montana, the glorious sightseeing that is offered at every turn and the mighty peaks with their snowy tops making a majestic backdrop to the scenery, it is a forgone conclusion that one of Montana’s greatest tourism attractions is the fantastic skiing offered on its lofty mountain tops. One of the most famous resorts in the state is the Big Sky Resort located between Bozeman and West Yellowstone. This is a full service year round resort that offers world class skiing trails and slopes in the winter with wonderful accommodations available to fit any budget. During the summer months when the slope are closed, the area offers spa services and retreats, exquisite dining experiences and shopping to satisfy all levels of enthusiasts. Another ski area worth a visit is the Showdown Ski Area near White Sulphur Springs, Montana. It is located in the middle of the Lewis and Clark National Forest in the beautiful Little Belt Mountains. With breathtaking scenery that seems to be everywhere one turns in Montana, this resort is famous for its all natural snow field, fun, family atmosphere and warm hearted atmosphere. Skiing in the state of Montana is definitely a snow sport aficionado’s paradise. With all of the natural beauty surrounding every corner of Montana, it only makes sense to be a day (or two or three) trip person’s dream come true. In this state you will discover almost 147,000 square miles of land area with about 69,000miles of highways and byways to travel. One exciting option is to follow the Lewis and Clark Trail and see where they forged their way through the wilderness. Another beautiful trip to make is to go along the Trail of the Bear and see the sights of Big Sky Country. If wanting to explore the southwestern part of the state known as Gold West Country is your choice, be prepared to drive through large farming valleys surrounded by awe inspiring snowcapped mountains. This area is also conveniently situated between the famous Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park, both which can provide a sightseeing family with days of driving delight. In this area of the state you will find a lifestyle that is slower paced and simpler where friendly people abound and have a deep sense of satisfaction and pride in their surroundings. There will be many interesting stops along the route that takes you through this part of the state. Expect to be thrilled by the natural wildness and breathtaking beauty you will find along the way. Ghost towns, gigantic ranches and rushing rivers that are filled with jumping trout all await the lucky traveler. If wanting a taste of the few natural and unspoiled areas that are still present in this ever expanding country of ours is what you’re looking for, look no further than Montana. You won’t be disappointed!